BOISE — Eight Republican senators who voted against schools chief Tom Luna’s education reforms would run against incumbents under a new GOP-backed proposal for redrawing Idaho’s political boundaries that’s raising concerns of payback in the Capitol.
The plan was introduced by Republican Redistricting Commissioner Lou Esposito.
Esposito insisted he never looked specifically at who would be affected when he drew up his map.
However, the Idaho Statesman reported Thursday there’s suspicion among those hit by his proposed changes that he’s targeting moderates who didn’t agree with Luna.
“I know people are calling me a liar,” Esposito said. “But until the map was done, I couldn’t tell you where most of the people were. Our job was to put together the very best possible map.”
Boise State political scientist Gary Moncrief said some head-to-head races are inevitable in redistricting because of population shifts and geography.
And some of those lawmakers who voted against Luna’s plan were already considered to be the most likely to be forced into incumbent face-offs during this latest round of boundary drawing based on the 2010 census, he said, due to population growth patterns and efforts to consolidate unwieldy districts created in 2001.
Democrats have a competing plan up for consideration in which many of the same lawmakers affected by Esposito’s proposal would also be forced into races with incumbents.
Debate over which plan to adopt — a new one could emerge, too — is expected to extend into September.
Under Esposito’s plan, more than a third of the Legislature’s current members — 41 lawmakers in all — could face incumbent competition.
They include Sen. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint against Sen. Joyce Broadsword of Sagle, both of whom panned Luna’s plan.
Others in the same situation are Joe Stegner, of Lewiston; Tim Corder, of Mountain Home; John Andreason, of Boise; Dean Cameron, of Rupert; Denton Darrington, of Declo; and Bart Davis, of Idaho Falls.
Andreason suspects the plan would force him to face Sen. Les Bock, a Boise Democrat, because of his disloyalty to Luna and Gov. Butch Otter in voting against the K-12 reforms.
“I haven’t studied it enough to be sure, but I fully suspect that’s the case,” Andreason said.
Corder suggested that Esposito’s plan is a product of conservative Idaho Republicans who have been on the march since 2008, aiming to make life difficult for perceived moderates like him.
“The state that’s the reddest of the red, and it’s not red enough,” Corder said. “You lock out independents, you run Republicans against Republicans. What is that but eating our own?”
Luna’s spokeswoman, Melissa McGrath, told the Statesman, “Superintendent Luna has not been involved in the redistricting process.”